The Smiths A-Z: "Work Is A Four-Letter Word"

Famous when dead


(Film version is different - full film on YT if interested - but it's dire!).

2:45 (Single version)
2:09 (Single edit)

Full Goddard's: Songs That Saved Your Life entry - as it captures all that needs to be said really:

"After they split, Marr would denounce this track, along with ‘Golden Lights’, as The Smiths’ career low, and with good reason. For the first time ever, rather than tell Marr himself of his decision to cover a 1968 Cilla Black B-side, Morrissey first entrusted Joyce to break the news. ‘That really pissed me off big time,’ confesses Marr, ‘that Mike was the one who told me we were gonna do that song, which I thought was just totally naff. It wasn’t his role to tell me what song I was gonna produce and play on. To be fair, I think he was maybe trying to help by putting his hands on the wheel. I’m older now so I can see it was a desperate situation for everybody. But it was just the end.’
Rourke was equally discouraged: ‘Morrissey played us the original because we had to weed out all the orchestration on it and learn the basic chords. But I could feel it was all getting less precious because we’d never have done that four years earlier.’ As a desperate measure, Joyce was even roped into contributing some backing vocals which, as the drummer himself admits, ‘shows how silly it was getting, really!’
Morrissey had first cited Cilla as one of his ‘uncommon perversions’ in The Face back in 1984. Her perky 1963 Lennon/McCartney-penned debut single ‘Love Of The Loved’ had been The Smiths’ first walk-on theme during that year’s spring tour. Given their collaboration with Cilla’s leading contemporary, Sandie Shaw, perhaps it wasn’t such a deplorable tangent for them to cruise down after all, particularly with the song’s self-evident rejection of the work ethic in keeping with Morrissey’s oeuvre. Rather, it was the stigma of Cilla herself who had since made the transition from 60s chanteuse to prime-time TV light entertainment as the host of Blind Date and Surprise, Surprise that rankled.

The title theme to Peter Hall’s 1968 film starring David Warner and Cilla herself (a dismal ‘comedy’ about magic mushrooms and possibly best enjoyed under the influence of the same) ‘Work Is A Four-Letter Word’ was nowhere near as terrible as their butchering of Twinkle’s ‘Golden Lights’; at worst mediocre and at best, an admirable contemporary interpretation of an obscure 60s pop curiosity. There was scarce indication if their hearts weren’t in it, particularly during its active instrumental coda. (The version featured on the seven inch of ‘Girlfriend In A Coma’ is a shortened edit fading out after two minutes and missing this section completely.) Morrissey was careful to discard its opening stanza about ‘girls who some men will slave for’, perhaps as an exercise in kitsch-limitation. As with ‘I Keep Mine Hidden’, one could also speculate on its words being a subliminal expression of his feelings towards Marr at that critical moment before Johnny finally walked away from The Smiths: ‘If you stay, I’ll stay right beside you’.
When interviewed ten years later for a Channel 4 documentary on Cilla, Morrissey divulged that their cover was intended ‘as a bit of a tease really — I wasn’t really attempting to produce a great piece of Gothic art’, before finally confessing with visible amusement that ‘Cilla Black, unbeknownst to herself, actually broke up The Smiths.’ Marr remains more rational. ‘No, I didn’t want to do it,’ he admits, ‘but to say that’s the reason we broke up is ludicrous.’"

Lorra lorra garbage?
Explain below.

I really don't mind WIAFLW at all; it's not something I'd search out to play, but I don't skip it when it arrives; it's the Smiths, it's Morrissey, & it just adds another dimension to their catalogue as far as I'm concerned. I love the 60s referencing, & Moz actually does a better job than Cilla.
Like Golden Lights, another classic, that could
have been written by them. So in a way, it is another Smiths song, for me.
Light, jaunty, fun. The fact that a song as harmless as this kicked up a stink just shows how fraught the situation was at the end of the Smiths, and the bizarre mind games going on.
Mike Joyce gives it some welly and you'd never know from the performance that JM felt under duress to record it. Not the finest Morrissey vocal. At least it's not "Golden Lights."
Proof that even a Smiths low is still kind of a high (not even that put off by Morrissey's strained vocal in parts). A fun little song that's better appreciated without knowing the drama behind it. It's nowhere near as cringe for me as "Golden Lights."
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I don't mind this. I can easily say I prefer it to 98% of Johnny's post smiths work and a lot of M's post smiths work
Not saying that to be a spanner
I enjoy this song. Like a previous poster, I don’t necessarily seek it out, but do enjoy it when I hear it. Unfortunately when I hear it, my thoughts are more pushed towards this was the time period that The Smiths broke up.

I almost feel frightened to type this, but I kind of like Golden Lights. I’ve heard the original. What is it that people just find so appalling by this cover? Is it the distorted voice. I think it’s a nice, light tune and rather enjoy it. But man do people hate that song.

If I had to live on an island and had that song and Hairdresser, and that’ all I could have, I’d date the former.

Hairdresser is a sure skip for me. But Golden Lights I will give 5/10.

Be safe and healthy all, … it’s nasty out there….
I’m not frightened to type this …. I’d pick Golden Lights over Work Is, definitely. And I’d pick any covers over The Draize Train. Though I’d probably pick Oscillate Wildly over Golden and Work, but maybe not over What’s the World, which is one those great James songs, back when they wrote great songs. IMO.
I like it but for me the only terrible song The Smiths ever recorded was 'Golden Lights'.
I massively prefer "Golden Lights" to this, for some reason!

I guess because the lyrics to "Golden Lights" fit so seamlessly with some of Morrissey's obsessions, whereas the lyrics to "WIAFLW" just...don't.
the smiths a-z
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